Opening and Closing a Session

The first few minutes are very crucial because

  • You may have to follow a speaker who for whatever reasons has had a great acceptance.
  • You may be the first or only speaker on that occasion and you have to cut the ice, so to speak, make the audience feel immediately that their attendance is worthwhile.
  • You may, like most other people, feel far more nervous during the first few minutes

Creating good first impression

  • Arrange the ‘stage’ on which you are to perform.
  • Take a little time before you start speaking to position your notes and visual aids so that you can use them comfortably.
  • Make sure you have room to move between the table or lectern and the blackboard or OHP.
  • Your notes are high enough to you to see without continually dropping your head.
  • Don’t hesitate; start as soon as the audience is settled, but take a few seconds to survey the audience and let them stock of you.
  • Don’t open with clichés or hackneyed expressions, e.g. ‘it gives me great pleasure…’I want to thank you…(do this a little later or even towards the end of your talk.

The opening must be something original and interesting enough to make them want to hear what you have to say.

}Avoid too early a climax- interest will fall if the high standard of the opening cannot be sustained. Remember it is only an opening- an introduction. Don’t make it too long. Keep it in proportion to the total length of the talk.

To open with as statement of subject or title is not very inspiring. They probably know subject anyway. Statement of your objective and the plan of your talk- a good safe way to start if you have adopted a deductive sequence, but if you are trying to persuade , you don’t want to give the game away too early. Few ways to open a session :-

1. Questions

Anticipate the type of questions your audience might want answered in connection with your subject

“Is communication the transfer of understanding or is it much more than that?”

The audience instinctively tries to arrive at an answer- and gives you an opening

2. Mind Reading

Similar to the use of question.Anticipate the audiences preconceived ideas and bring these in to the open and correct them if necessary.

“If I were in the audience today I would be expecting to sit through another boring lecture on communication. But I have something more interesting …”

3. Anecdotes

Must be well told, relevant to the subject, brief and, if possible, personal the willingness to laugh at yourself will usually win an audience.

Example 1

” I actually heard a speaker say before he started his presentation, “If you can’t hear me, please raise your hand.” And then he repeated himself..”

Example 2

“For nearly 10 years I served on the faculty of MKL University in Jaipur, as an adjunct instructor of public speaking. One of the early assignments in the course was for students to present a speech to demonstrate a skill or process using audio-visual aids.

One enterprising student chose as his topic a demonstration of how to make fortune cookies. He gave out copies of the recipe, explained the steps, mixed the batter from pre-measured ingredients, and rolled out the dough. I was impressed with the advance planning and preparation that went into the speech, but never more so than when he passed out samples of cookies he had already baked in the dorm kitchen.

The one I received contained the following fortune: “You are about to give a student an A on a speech.” He got his A !”

4. Jokes

If your experience tells you that you can do this well, then it may be worth risking it. But peoples sense of humour differs radically, and if the joke falls flat you are worse off than before. Again, it must be well told, relevant and brief.

Sam and Joe are walking from religious service. Joe wonders whether it would be all right to smoke while praying.

Sam suggests ” Why don’t you ask the priest?” So Joe goes upto the priest and asks ” Priest, may I smoke while I pray?” But the priest says ” No, my son you may not. That’s utter disrespect to our religion.”

Joe goes back to his friend and tell him what the priest told him . Sam says-” I am not surprised. You asked the wrong question. Let me try.” And so Sam goes up to the priest and asks -” Priest, may I pray while I smoke?”

To which priest eagerly replies , ” By all means, my son. By all means.”

5. Facts and Statistics

Used sparingly they can get the audience to rise to the occasion.Most business or technical subjects offer many facts which will interest and inform your audience. Choose them carefully and make sure they are accurate.Keep them simple.Contrasting facts can be particularly interesting }

 A typical study points out that many of us spend 70 to 80 percent of our waking hours in some form of communication. Of that time, we spend about 9 percent writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent speaking, and 45 percent listening. Studies also confirm that most of us are poor and inefficient listeners.

6. Quotation

Perhaps the easiest method to use and often most effective.The quotation should be from a well known person or author known to the audience and strictly relevant to your subject.

The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”- Peter Drucker

7. Shock

Not just the gimmicky opening, firing revolvers or letting off explosions, which can often go wrong and are always to sustain.Shock can be created through effective use of words.

  ‘No sessions on communication are helpful. They are waste of time and money…only fools do it…’   pause to allow the shock to take effect, then: ‘ unless, of course, it is aimed at…

8. Story

As opposed to the humorous story. Everyone likes a story- but only if it is skill-fully chosen and  told. Ideally it should have an intriguing twist and must lead into the subject.

“From the incidents of Ramayan, we can note that Lord Hanuman met Sita first in Ashok Vatika. Sita was not able to recognise him immediately. But with Hanuman’s remarkable communication skills he could assure Sita that he is the only messenger of Lord Rama. Therefore speaking and presentation skills are very essential to make an impact and assert oneself”

Closing a session

Just as you need to attract the interest of the audience at the beginning of the talk, so you must finish on a high note. The effect of the speech which  is other wise good can be damaged by its close

Avoid wandering towards the end. End on a high note which is relevant to all that has gone before .Don’t make a second speech. Even if you suddenly think of something else which is relevant don’t be tempted. It is very easy, as the tension relaxes, to start developing a new line of thought which was not there in the body of thought earlier.

Avoid repetition. In summing up the main points you have made, don’t repeat details or labor over points again. If you have finished before your allotted time- sit down. Don’t pad it out.Avoid having to rely on notes for your final remarks. Learn your closing words so that you can look at your audience as you reach your climax

Don’t give too many closing signals, e.g. ‘and finally’, ‘in conclusion’, ‘one other thing before I finish’, ‘then, before you fall asleep’,…In fact, it is probably best to avoid a closing signal altogether.

 Your closing remarks should round off your talk, and therefore by implication your audience will know that your talk is complete

To avoid these pit falls, you need to have a closing plan which is an integral part of the development of your whole speech. Some common and effective ways of closing a session are :-

1. Summary

A fairly standard way to finish but nevertheless effective. A brief review of the important points leaves no doubt in the minds of your audience.

2. Questions

Questions send the audience away to think of an answer. ‘This then is what we have to do. The question now is , how can we best achieve it’. 

3. Story or Anecdote

Story or anecdote-should be brief and to the point. A story can illustrate how your ideas have worked out in practice

4. Quotation

It can indicate wide knowledge and therefore lend credibility to your performance. Must be relevant and must not be just tucked in for its own sake

5. Alternative

It offers a choice of alternatives, or different solutions. The one you want accepted should be obvious from the way you have constructed your presentation and you can give this one more weight than the others in the summary.

What would you like to do know ? Would you like to improve your communication to live a better life ?

6. Dramatic

If you carry it off by the dramatic use of your voice, or dramatic content, can certainly end things on a high note

7. Action

You want action now, not later. So ask for it. Many of your audience will respond.

” I would like you to implement on the communication technique that we have discussed at your work place and it would be great, if you could share your feedbacks after that.”

8. Incentive

Incentive-if you can suggest ways in which the audience can benefit ,some sort of a reward or an incentive, they are even more likely to respond. An audience is less likely to forget your message if you don’t offer a reason for taking action.

We will give gift vouchers to the first fifty people who write in to us about their experiences of using these communication techniques at their workplace.

9. Fear

Use of fear to gain action is risky because it can alienate the audience. But since it is often difficult to provoke the audience to action, you may be justified in using some element of fear if the end result is worthwhile.

‘you must act – now ! Before it is too late!’.

Mark my words, you can never grow without working on your communication.

10. Conscience

It has same effect as above but less risky.

“You owe it to yourself – a life which is big, really big. A life in which people want to meet you, want to talk to you, want to listen to you. This kind of king size life can be achieved through communication. Are you ready to give yourself an extra-ordinary life or an ordinary not worth mentioning life.”

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